Back to the Basics…Live and Local

683-14A copy.jpgComparing ‘there” versus “here”….hmmm. Fact is,  we don’t really know where “here is” in broadcasting vernacular. I remember many years ago our “local” radio station receptionist trying to explain to an elderly listener (who baked a pie for her favorite DJ), that the DJ actually lived 2000 miles away in Chicago.  Shocked and disappointed,  Grandma and her Peach Pie went out the door (with a bumper sticker of course) never to return. I love pie. And it disappeared.

Yes, Radio Stations were the early adopters of outsourcing. In fact, BSW’s company founder Irv Law, was the first to introduce ‘automation systems” to stations in the 1960′s. Nowadays,  listeners are not amazed to learn that many local DJ’s are, in-fact, local fiction.  A local radio station actually emulating from another loCAL (New York, New Brunswick, or Mars) ain’t no big thang. Local is a state of mind right?

So let’s talk about you shall we?  Wanna be hip? Wanna be cool?  Simple…Broadcast Live and Broadcast Local. Turns out this is is an effective serum to cure broadcasting blahs. Being connected with your local community is your opportunity to profit successfully in a soft economic climate.

Broadcast live from the hotel or 50,000 seat arena . (Worked for Murry the K and The Beatles). See how many high school kids can cram in a VW at the local dealership. Set up a mic on a local street corner and engage your listeners with a real person. Or…broadcast a boat race like BSW’s John Lynch does every summer for the local radio station.

Lastly, do the math. Live + Local = Hip . And guess what? Hip  = Profit. And, people pay for Hip…simple as that.

Old School Broadcasting STILL rocks. So go sell a local REMOTE broadcast. (Buy your remote gear from BSW). And while you are at it, pass a slice of granny’s peach pie.

Mmmm pie.

SIGSALY

300px-sigsalyjpgAnd just when we thought we had heard of everything… SIGSALY was mentioned. Actually more than mentioned, we met an unbelievable man who was involved with the invention of this fascinating technology.  His name is Frank Laico, and he is a CBS Recording Engineer Emeritus who’s recording credits reads like a who’s who in hit records. (Sinatra, Bennett, Streisand, and on and on and on). Frank was the guest speaker at the recent AES Meeting in Seattle. Magnificant gentleman who gave us three hours of fascinating information regarding making hit records back in the days when hit records were really records.

Back to SIGSALY. The brief description (from Wikipedia)

n cryptography, SIGSALY (also known as the X System, Project X, Ciphony I, and the Green Hornet) was a secure speech system used in World War II for the highest-level Allied communications. It pioneered a number of digital communications concepts, including the first transmission of speech using pulse-code modulation.

Frank Laico and his military buddies were pioneering digital audio long before digital …existed.

So go put on a Miles Davis album, (also recorded by Frank) , sit back and read all about SIGSALY  here. Fascinating story.

While you are at it, Google Frank Laico. His story and recording credits are amazing as well.

Gimme More HD Signal Pleeeze

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So, admittedly, I  have HD buyers remorse.

I purchased the HD Radio option in my BMW-X5 in January 2008. (I have commented in the past regarding this experience). But I must say after having paid for and using this option I kinda secretly wish I could get my money back. And here’s why. The HD  audio signal can’t seem to find my car.

Here in the Seattle-Tacoma area we have one AM and ten or so HD stations on FM.  After a year of trying to listen to the HD signal, I’m now conditioned expect the HD signal constantly pop in and out just like mono/stereo signal in my old 1970′s FM converter box. Oh for the days of my 1964 Chevy Impala,  AM Radio and a FM Converter box. Good times,  good times…but I digress.

The HD kicks in and out alot. If I happen to tune into a HD2 signal then the “no commercial HD2 Crawdaddy Blues format” just mutes. And Mutes. And Mutes some more. You get the mute point.

I assume more transmitting power on the HD signal would go a long way in improving this. So why not just crank up the HD output power? Probably a zillion reasons why not. But speaking as a citizen here in publicville I feel gypped. And I really don’t care what the technical reasons are…I just want HD to work. So..FIX IT.

Didn’t realize I was so grumpy. Maybe, I should just go look for a 1964 Impala on Craigs List to feel better.

Internet DXing

I have been a “radio guy” for most of my years and must truthfully admit I’ve had a difficult time accepting Internet Radio as “Real Radio”. I mean, come on, where’s the transmitter and the tower?

Despite my personal reluctance, the public is embracing web radio. The younger demographic crowd has been listening to web radio  for years. Now, even grandma can listen to her radio station from the “old country” and granny doesn’t need a shortwave radio to do so. A Wi-Fi Radio and a data line will suffice nicely.

Internet broadcasters don’t need a license or a 500,000 watt blowtorch transmitter to spread the word and entertainment to millions. In the internet broadcasters world, a transmitter and tower are  “a large server and a big pipe”.

For the interested listener, Internet Radio permits another form of  DXing.  The world is at your fingertips with a simple turn of a knob. Must be similar to how shortwave radio felt to the public in the 1920′s.

I have to admit, Wi-Fi Radios are very, very appealing…even to this old radio mutt. I’m going to buy one for our kitchen. It will have AM/FM however. Nothing beats local…even with the world at your fingertips.

Be Nice To Your “Herb(s)”

Selling…is…hard. If you don’t believe me, I challenge you to go try it. Earning a living by way of selling Radio Advertising is about as difficult as it gets. This isn’t an assumption on my part…I attempted to sell radio advertising for several years. It was the most challenging thing I have ever tried and one of the few things I can honestly say I was a complete failure at.  I am grateful that my true calling was selling audio gear TO radio stations. I’m also grateful that there are many Radio Advertising salespeople that are successful. Because of them, we are all employed in this wonderful industry.

As we continue to experience a challenging economy, take a moment and go thank your sales department for doing what they do. Selling Radio Advertising is a tough intangible. A tangible pat-on-the-back from you is appreciated every now and then. Even Herb would approve. You might get to wear his suave tie at the next convention.

Empire of the Air

I recently revisited the Ken Burns PBS Special Documentary “Empire of the Air”.

Radio’s beginnings in America are truly amazing. The stories of technology triumph and despair, fought with personal vendettas have all the ingredients of a technical Soap Opera.

History indeed repeats itself. Remember the battle for AM Stereo? What about our present day struggle with HD? Or Satellite delivery?

I doubt if our present day radio technology will have the likes of Ken Burn’s making a documentary about what we as an industry are going through…but I think you have to agree we have an interesting reality show script.

HD Radio…Standard Automotive Equipment?

Interesting story in the 7/8/2008 USA Today about “digital radio” in cars. Seems that Hyundai’s new Genesis Sedan and several Volvos will soon have an HD Radio as STANDARD equipment. Very cool. If more car companies begin incorporating HD as STANDARD…life would be happy happy joy joy. Continue reading

Looks Like Rane

Being located in the rainy left corner of America we have some great local companies…and you thought BSW was the only one…

Occasionally I will call to your attention a few of my Northwest favorites. Located north of Seattle, in Mukilteo (pronounced muck-ul-teal), is RANE. We have been a dealer for them since they began in 1981. They make great gear…(you probably own a headphone amp or two). What I have always admired is RANE’s audio prowess. Case-in-point, check out RANE’s magnificent glossary of audio terms and definitions. Simply marvelous. Impress your friends with your extensive knowledge of audio terms such as “Accelerated-Slope”. This is a great bookmark for technical terms.

Do you Know what a Blumlein Pair Is?

Neither did I. And if you did indeed know what a Blumlein Pair is, go to the head of the class and tell us about the other 128 Patents Alan Blumlein has, Mr. Smarty Pants.

Mr. Blumlein was an amazing engineer who’s life-span was very brief (1903-1942) Recording, Television, and Radar were his fields of expertise. Read about his life here

A Blumlein Pair is a preferred way to record stereo performances with two microphones. The technique is one we all should know next time you get called out to broadcast or record the local Symphony with 20 minutes notice. Go to this link, print it out, and place it in your mic locker for safekeeping. Blumlein Pair on Wikipedia

Real Time…is…Real Slow

My vinyl record collection is dwindling every year. I have no idea where my albums are going but I suspect my wife is defragging shelf space similar to the way a computer defrags a hard drive. Still, it has always been my intention to move my favorite records out of the analog realm to the…’gasp’…computer. My Numark USB turntable is perfect for the job. It interfaces with the computer via the USB connection easily.

Committing the time and effort into actually doing this chore is another matter altogether. Continue reading

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